Balasore: Man-Made Disaster
P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, opines that the fatal train crash at Odisha's Balasore, which claimed hundreds of lives, was "an accident waiting to happen." In a nine-point argument, he blamed the Railway Ministry for "contributing to the disaster" through "acts of omission and commission in the last nine years."
"A suspicion has been sowed by the government that there were mischief-makers behind the tragedy. Maybe. If there were mischief, it was not the only one. Mischief means harm, damage, injury. There is a long list of acts of omission and commission in the last nine years that contributed to the accident that has cost 275 lives and wrecked the lives of hundreds of families."P Chidambaram, in his piece for The Indian Express
Mobilise G20 To Propel Long-Delayed UN Reform
In his piece for Hindustan Times, Shyam Saran argues that G20 is an opportunity for India to push for a structural and financial reform of the United Nations, as "it has long been evident that this post-war structure no longer reflects the current power equations."
"In the 21st century, the disconnect between the nature of cross-national and cross-cutting challenges the world confronts and the enfeeblement of the spirit of international solidarity that is indispensable to making multilateralism work can only be addressed through the urgent and meaningful reform of the UN and its associated system."Shyam Saran, for Hindustan Times
How To Hold India's Leaders Accountable
Karan Thapar, in his column for Hindustan Times, argues that while it is important for people's representatives to answer to the media in a democracy, press conferences may not be the ideal way to test their accountability. He believes that journalists can better judge a person in power through one-on-one political interviews.
"...in mature democracies, the preferred method of making leaders accountable is the political interview. Here, a single journalist engages the PM and, more importantly, sets the agenda for the questioning. The journalist decides the subjects to be raised as well as the persistence with which each is pursued. He determines when the subject will change, and he has the right to carry on questioning till he believes the PM has answered adequately. It's this that makes for a true grilling."Karan Thapar, in his column for Hindustan Times
Mayawati: Forgotten Leader With a Winning Poll Formula
In his column for Deccan Chronicle, Pavan K Varma discusses why Mayawati – former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and one of the most successful Dalit politicians in the country – has gone into "relative political oblivion" ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
"Why has Mayawati become politically dormant? Rumour has it that the BJP has culpable information on her finances and, therefore, she has chosen to take a back seat. Certainly, her declaration of personal wealth in her Rajya Sabha nomination form raises eyebrows, but which political leader's assets, if honestly given, would not? The truth is that her original winning combination – Scheduled Castes, Brahmins, and Muslims – is still a winning electoral formula."Pavan K Varma, for Deccan Chronicle
The Burden of Shastri's 'Moral Responsibility'
In light of the Odisha train tragedy, Shyamlal Yadav, in his piece for The Indian Express, discusses a Railway Minister's 'moral responsibility' after an accident, and narrates how Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was the Minister of Railways and Transport in Jawaharlal Nehru's first Cabinet, resigned after similar accidents during his tenure.
"The government – Shastri in particular – was criticised in the House by the Opposition over the accident and the handling of the situation. K Ananda Nambiar, an MP from the Communist Party of India, said, 'The (Railway) Board and the Ministry are responsible for it (the accident). They must explain, they must quit.'"Shaymlal Yadav, for The Indian Express
Textbook Revisions Will Hit Lower-Income Students the Hardest
Parvati Sharma, in her piece for The Times of India, writes about the much-debated NCERT 'rationalisation' of textbooks – and how the deletions in the science syllabus are just as concerning as the removal of chapters on Mughal history and social justice movements. She also argues how these deletions would affect marginalised children more.
"As was the case during the Covid pandemic, those who can afford it will continue to receive a good education – their schools will continue to teach them the science they need to get ahead, their homes may well be stocked with books that explore Indian history and society without the blinkers of Hindutva. For the rest, however, the large majority of low-income Indian students for whom education is a vital – sometimes only – way of achieving better lives, the NCERT is reducing both access to knowledge and the ability for critical thought."Parvati Sharma, for The Times of India
With Apple unveiling its augmented reality headset, Vision Pro, Mukul Kesavan, in his column for The Telegraph, discusses what this "giant pair of ski goggles" has to offer and whether it would have any psychological and sociological impacts.
"The real question isn't technological, it's social and psychological. Will the strangeness of spending hours of your life in these goggles looking like a dorky diver on dry land, the weirdness of viewing your immediate world through digital camera arrays instead of your own eyes, the unsociability of being ostentatiously distracted in the company of others, limit widespread adoption?"Mukul Kesavan, in his piece for The Telegraph
Out of Step: Dance, Caste and a Pushback
In light of the Kalakshetra controversy, Sindu Deivanayagam and Apeksha Singegol, in their piece for The Indian Express, highlight the importance of tracing the origins of Bharatanatyam – and challenging the ownership of the artform by "so-called high culture elites."
"[Bharatanatyam] was originally called 'Sadir Attam', which has been reformed into Bharatanatyam – 'the pure form'. Sadir Attam was performed years ago by 'Devar-Adiyar' (Devadasi), meaning 'Server of God', now used as a swear word in Tamil – 'Thevudiya', meaning 'prostitute'. This evolution of the word shows a concerted effort by society to appropriate art for their purposes while marginalising, demonising and stigmatising the original artists – the Devadasis."Sindu Deivanayagam and Apeksha Singegol, for The Indian Express
Once Upon a School
In her column for The Telegraph, Upala Sen narrates the story of how the fate of a high school in Odisha's Balasore changed after the horrifying train crash over a week ago, which claimed the lives of over 280 people.
"From housing the dead, the school came to be known as the 'haunted school'. Parents refused to send their children back there. Teachers said they were uncomfortable. One is not sure what the students made of it all, but according to reports they were scared. The chant grew – 'haunted, haunted'."Upala Sen, for The Telegraph